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Ski hill development in Riding Mountain National Park counters National Parks Act

Parks Canada failing to protect ecological integrity of parks.

HébertDaly: Worrying trend away from protecting, interpreting nature a primary purpose of natl parksOTTAWA, ON, June 15, 2012: Parks Canada announced an amendment to the Riding Mountain National Park management plan allowing potential redevelopment of the long-closed Mount Agassiz Ski area. The Canadian Parks and Wilderness Society is deeply concerned that this decision is yet another sign that the Agency is moving away from protecting ecological integrity as its first priority for park management.

This announcement reverses Parks Canada's previous commitment to remove the aging infrastructure from the bankrupt ski hill and restore the area's ecosystem.

  "Encourage Canadians to enjoy national parks in ways that focus on nature-based experiences and learning, as opposed to activities that depend on massive built infrastructure."

"This is part of a very worrying trend away from protecting and interpreting nature as the primary purpose of our national parks, and towards building commercial recreation and tourism facilities," said Éric Hébert-Daly, CPAWS National Executive Director. "It's the latest in a series of decisions that run counter to protecting ecological integrity as a first priority."

The Canada National Parks Act prohibits the development of new downhill ski areas in national parks because of the significant impacts the activity has on park ecosystems. With most of the equipment and buildings at Mount Agassiz in need of replacement a decade after the hill went bankrupt, re-developing this site would essentially mean developing a new ski area. There are other downhill ski areas operating in the surrounding region, appropriately located outside of the park, and the feasibility study for the Mount Agassiz project casts doubt on its viability, citing an inadequate market, re-development requirements and competition from other ski areas in the region.

This announcement follows on the heels of other Parks Canada decisions to allow large-scale summer use of the Mount Norquay ski area in Banff, threatening important summer grizzly bear habitat, and to allow construction of a massive theme park-like glass-bottomed viewing platform in Jasper National Park along the Icefields Parkway.

"CPAWS strongly supports encouraging Canadians to enjoy our national parks in ways that focus on nature-based experiences and learning, as opposed to activities that depend on massive built infrastructure," says Hébert-Daly. "Instead of trying to re-open a bankrupt ski hill, we encourage Parks Canada to look for low-impact nature-based eco-tourism opportunities in the region instead."

Links and sources
  Allowing ski hill redevelopment in Riding Mountain NP another step backwards for park protection

Posted: June 29, 2012

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